Tales Twice Told
Fairy tales and folk tales are told in every culture, and in many cases, the same tale is told in different ways. These familiar stories are staple read-alouds, and they contain wonderful language and images, as well as valuable lessons. They are also great material for working with kids on comprehension and narrative form.
Fairy tales are strong on structure, with a defined beginning and ending, and often use devices like repetition or cumulative telling that emphasize the progress of the story. These devices also allow kids to join in the telling and to predict what comes next, an excellent skill for readers.
Teachers talk often about text-to-text connections, in which student identify parts of the text which remind them of another text. This is a great way to foster comprehension. Looking at different versions of a story is a great way to start here, reading, for example, The Gingerbread Boy and The Runaway Rice Cake and looking for the similarities. There are, too, many version of the Cinderella story, if you have a princess type in your home.
Fairy tales also, it must be said, foster imagination. There is a famous anecdote told about Albert Einstein, which says that when a mother asked him what her son should read to be as smart as him, he replied that the child should read fairy tales.
I am myself currently extremely excited at the news that a collection of old fairy tales was found a couple of months ago in Germany, including many that have not been part of the body of tales we have been familiar with until now. Here's hoping that there are some wonderful "new" gems to share with children!